In 1864 the board of directors of The Western Union Telegraph Company were concerned about Cyrus Field's failure to establish a reliable telegraph connection to Europe via a cable under the Atlantic ocean.
The alternative was to connect San Francisco with Moscow by constructing a line overland from near
Vancouver, British Columbia, through Russian America ( Alaska ), beneath the Bering Strait, then overland again through Russia and on into Moscow. From there, all western points into Europe could be reached. This undertaking was considered equally as challenging as laying the Atlantic cable. Most of the route was never charted before.
With the Russian government committed to do their part by extending their system east from Moscow to their Pacific coast, Western Union organized the Western Union Russian Extension Company
(Collins Overland Telegraph Expedition)
with the intentions of constructing a line to meet the Russians. This project also received encouragement from President Lincoln; " with the cordial good will and support as well of this government as of those of Great Britain and Russia."
Franklin Pope was appointed Assistant Engineer and Chief of Explorations in British America. His responsibility was to survey the route from New Westminster, BC** to the Yukon River approximately 1500 miles. Portions of route were intentionally explored during the harsh winter months -- the snow allowed their sleighs to go over the dense underbrush.
**New Westminster is located near Vancouver, British Columbia
"New Westminster, British Columbia, is situated on the Fraser River, about 15 miles from its mouth.
It is the capital of the colony, and the terminus of the California State Telegraph (Company).
The line of the Collins Overland Telegraph will also commence at this point..."
Correspondence by Franklin Pope to "The Telegrapher," June 13, 1865, from New Westminster, B.C.
All drawings and sketches by Frank L. Pope.
They are from his sketch book that he carried during the
Russian-American Telegraph Expedition.
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Copyright (c) by John Casale - W2NI
Troy, New York